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BASW says proposed end of life law lacks safeguards

BASW Scotland has raised concerns that proposed legislation that would allow people to request an assisted death lacks safeguards.

The End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill would enable people aged 16 and over, who are terminally ill or permanently disabled, to ask a doctor to help them end their life.

It was introduced in Scottish parliament in January by Margo MacDonald MSP, who has Parkinson’s disease.

As set out in the bill, someone would have to make two requests in writing to have help ending their life and after each one would need to be assessed by a psychiatrist.

Next month, BASW Scotland will tell the committee considering the bill at its first stage that there would need to be a more rigorous process.

Ruth Stark, professional officer BASW Scotland, said the law would need more “checks and balances” in order to bring it in line with other mental health or capacity legislation, which is much more robust.

“One would expect similar if not more rigorous assessment with a person seeking assistance ending their life,” she said. “These will be some of the issues we will be raising in our evidence,” she added.

In its written evidence to the committee, the Scottish Disability Forum said members were concerned that “no safeguard or procedures would ever be sufficient to eliminate the risks involved in assisting people to end their lives”.

One member said they were concerned that the bill would lead to “massive abuse” because some people might just need treatment for depression.

It adds that members are concerned about the time period to make the second request, which is between 15 and 30 days.

One person said: “You usually have 31 days to change your mind about returning a sofa and surely this is a more important decision. It also takes years to convince the NHS you need a sex change.”